A Warm Breeze Starts the Sprouting

The nights have still had lows in the mid-30 degree range, but the last two days have been warmer than usual for this time of the year. Today’s high temperature is pushing up to 65 degrees and the sun feels wonderful!

The peppermint and spearmint growing right next to the house have been active for about a week. The first sprouts are already vining up the stone and reaching for the sunlight. They are already eight or ten inches tall.

Peppermint crawling up the stone of the house in a southern exposure.

Peppermint vining up the stone of our house in a southern exposure.

The spearmint seems a little bit behind the rapid growth of the peppermint as it is at most two inches tall.

Spearmint getting started on its Spring growth.

Spearmint getting started on its Spring growth.

Last year both plants grew well in this location on the south side of the house, but the peppermint was much more aggressive. We had to keep trimming the peppermint back so that it would not overtake other herbs in this bed. It is worth keeping around though — mint tea is really enjoyable, hot or cold!

A weed that I see everywhere is blooming and will continue to bloom throughout the summer and fall. Since the ground ivy blossoms are so low to the ground and very small, I used a scanner with the lid open to get this picture. The blossoms open towards the ground and it’s practically impossible to obtain an image without breaking apart the plant. Here you can see the growth habit where one layer of leaves and blossoms grow up and over the previous set.

Ground ivy blossoms are dainty.

The ground ivy has irregular flowers that remind one of a miniature orchid.

Many of the perennials are starting to wake up. Today I saw the sprouting of false indigo, purple cone flower, hard mums, and even the star magnolia tree looks like it will blossom in the next day or so.

Coltsfoot by the Covered Bridge

Out for a Sunday drive today we came upon a one-lane covered bridge.

Go thata way!
Reconstructed wooden bridge in Central Pennsylvania.

Plank wooden floor clappety-claps when you cross the bridge.

Covered bridge in Pennsylvania.

Close-up of the covered bridge. Were all of them red?

Trees to the left along the creek give away their identity by showing off their beautiful white trunks. These cottonwood trees are almost always found near water.

Cottonwood trees along the creek.

Cottonwood trees along the creek sporting white bark.

Covered bridges were constructed in sections to help fortify the roof and the entire structure. Large wooden members make up this reconstructed covered bridge.

Look inside to see how the bridge was made.
Inside the covered bridge you can see how it was constructed.

Just after passing through the bridge we spotted a nice grouping of Coltsfoot growing near the roadside and an active spring. The weather has been quite dry of late so I wouldn’t expect this to be any runoff other than from a natural spring.

Coltsfoot growing in a moist area near a spring.
Coltsfoot growing in a moist area near a spring.

Coltsfoot blossoms are probably mistaken for dandelions by many due to its bright yellow blossoms. Closer inspection reveals the blossoms are atop scaled stalks with some reddish tones, not a smooth light green stem like the dandelion. At this stage of growth the green leaves have not yet appeared. The outline of a leaf is in the shape of a colt’s foot, so that is where coltsfoot gets its name.

Bright yellow coltsfoot blossoms along a road in Central Pennsylvania.

Bright yellow coltsfoot blossoms along a road in Central Pennsylvania.

Driving back to the house we saw a brave little groundhog run across the road and back again before we got very close to it. These chickens were out of the coop for a breath of fresh air, too!

Rooster and chickens out in the barnyard.
Rooster and chickens out in the barnyard.

When we got to our dirt road we watched a pileated woodpecker as he moved from tree to tree in search of lunch. Sounded like a great idea to us!

Blustery March

The water in the outdoor cat dishes has been frozen solid for three mornings in a row. This morning it was 32 degrees and the wind chill was 22, so the cats must have appreciated staying in the garage for the night. The suet feeder in the backyard was knocked to the ground, opened and emptied of its goodies. Since the dog went crazy sniffing around the area and barking quite excitedly this morning, we wonder if the neighborhood bear made a late night visit for a snack. This time of year must find the bears quite hungry! There has been a lot of bird activity at the window-mounted feeder — they just love the sunflower seeds, don’t they? We hope the window feeder is too high up for the bear to reach.

Well, as far as the plants go, they are not making much progress in emerging from their winter rest. Now that the weather is colder than normal the Spring emergence has been put on hold for a short time. A few more maple trees have cracked open their winter buds, but we don’t expect many more signs of Spring until the nights get above a chilly 30 degrees.

Brisk, Windy and Cold

The weather today is quite brisk with the trees swaying in the wind and making ocean sounds. It is surprising how well the leafless trees do sway in the wind. One would think that there is not much there for the wind to hold on to. Mornings have been in the upper 20s or low 30s and the high temps are struggling to get over 42 degrees. Never mind the wind chill.

Scared up a rabbit near the plentiful wild roses by the gravel drive as I took a walk this afternoon. Some of the greenery is starting to re-appear after the long, mild winter. Chives, garlic mustard and cinquefoil were all coming up. Ferns that had been protected by the fallen oak leaves for the winter are starting to get green again. Mosses in the woods and the grass on the lawn look a little brighter green, too.

A couple maple trees are just starting to bud out, but no other trees seem to be ready to join them yet.

6 Hours to Bloom

A few hours ago these crocuses were under cover of snow. The sun is warm but the wind is making for a brisk and cold day. The sun has been out long enough between fast-moving clouds to warm up the ground and melt the snow.

Purple crocuses blooming six hours after the snow.
These little purple crocuses must be the freshest blooms I’ve seen!

Winter is Baaack!

On Monday we had to check the calendar to verify that we were still in Winter as the temperature soared to 75 degrees. This morning is quite another story as gusty winds are whipping the snow around sideways. I wonder if the tulips by the house will survive the last throes of Winter.

Tulips poking through the ground are experiencing snow.

The tulips adjacent to the house may have been faked out by receiving extra heat, but certainly not the little purple crocuses that are 50 feet or so across the drive. They must be own their own cycle.

Purple crocuses should be able to withstand the light covering of snow.

A curiosity — Are plants more likely to respond to the warming trend in Spring or to the lengthening days? Scientists may not even know the real answers because increasing temperatures and longer days are so closely intertwined. The "Ides of March" are upon us!

The ground seems a little warm for the snow to stick on the drive.

I’ll let the snow squall pass before I venture out today. Even as I write this the clouds have cleared to reveal a blue sky, and yet, stray snowflakes are being whisked around by the winds.

Small-flowered Bitter Cress

The tiny white, four-petaled flowers of the small-leaved bitter cress were in full bloom yesterday. A low-growing plant, this bitter cress is indeed inconspicuous as are its eighth-inch flowers.

Small-flowered bitter cress grows close to the ground.
Tiny white flower measures 1/8th inch in diameter. Single leaves are deeply lobed.

Describing the leaves is more difficult. What appears to be many pairs of opposite small leaves on a stem is actually a single leaf that is deeply lobed or divided. The leaves alternate up the main stem.

Small-leaved bitter cress leaves alternate up the stem.

Relatives of the small-flowered bitter cress are said to be good in salads, but this Cardamine species basically tasted like grass.

Birds on the Move

This past weekend saw a lot of bird activity. Canada geese resumed their northward flights in giant V-formations. The sound of them coaxing each other further on is delightful! Rarely do we get to hear such natural communication by wild creatures as we sit on the back porch.

Other birds were seen and heard in action, especially the bluebirds calling for mates and taking turns standing on the bluebird nesting box. There have been a small group of bluebirds appearing here and there for a few weeks now. Here’s another true sign of Spring, a few robins searching the ground for a meal.

Early Spring robins looking for a meal.

The first robin of the season was spotted last Thursday. Since then we have been having quite warm, but windy and rainy weather. The last few days have reached into the 60s and the nights very mild in the 40s and 50s. Forecasts call for more blustery skies early in the week, so nature walks for flower pictures are on hold until the skies are partially clear and the wind is a bit more calm.